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Pope Francis: ‘The Church is not an External Reality’

June 29, 2019. ‘You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church’

On June 29, 2019, the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, Pope Francis appeared at the window of the study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to recite the Angelus with the pilgrims and faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

Before joining the crowd in prayer, he recalled that the two great saints are often portrayed in art literally hold up the Church building. He said this recalls the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel from the 16th chapter of Matthew: “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church”.

The Pope noted that it is the first time Jesus uses the word “Church” but he doesn’t mean just an “external reality”. And the Pope encouraged those listening to think of the Church as “my Church”.

“Jesus does not speak of the Church as an external reality, but expresses the great love he has for her: my Church,” Francis emphasized. “He is attached to the Church, to us. Saint Paul writes: ‘Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her’ (Eph 5:25), that is, explains the Apostle, Jesus loves the Church as his bride.

“For the Lord, we are not a group of believers or a religious organization, we are his bride. He looks tenderly at his Church, he loves it with absolute fidelity, despite our mistakes and betrayals. Like that day to Peter, today he says to all of us: ‘my Church, you are my Church’.

“And we too can repeat it: my Church. We do not say this with a sense of exclusive belonging, but with an inclusive love. Not to differentiate ourselves from others, but to learn the beauty of being with others, because Jesus wants us united and open.”

The Pope also recalled the word of Jesus at the conclusion of the Gospel: “Feed my sheep” (Jn 21:17). The Holy Father suggests that in this command there is the same tenderness, a tenderness in talking about sheep as in talking about Church.

“With how much love, how much love Jesus loves us! He hears us,” Francis concluded.  “Here is the affection that builds the Church. Today, through the intercession of the Apostles, we ask for the grace to love our Church.

“We ask eyes that know how to see in it brothers and sisters, a heart that knows how to welcome others with the tender love that Jesus has for us. And we ask for the strength to pray for those who do not think like us – this thinks otherwise, I pray for him – to pray and to love, which is the opposite of speaking against, perhaps behind. Never talk, pray and love. Our Lady, who brought harmony between the Apostles and prayed with them (cf. Acts 1:14), guard us as brothers and sisters in the Church.”